Women in Literature and Film

An examination of the portrayal of women in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, The Rainbow, Vera Brittain’s memoir, “The Testament of Youth”, and Francois Truffaut’s film, Two English Girls.

This paper discusses how all these works of art present the issue of how women in the 20th century deal with the legacy of Victorian morality and how they shape their own lives, both in response to and in defiance of those virtues. It explains that in Victorian society, women had an extremely well-defined, repressive, and limited role in society; women were generally seen as matronly figures and were generally not involved in matters outside of the household. Similarly, there were a series of intense and strict taboos surrounding female sexuality, which was not a subject available for polite discussion. It shows, however, that in these works, several different young female characters raised in the shadow of the Victorian era are coming to grips with their identity, especially as it relates to the typical idea of women that people held in the Victorian era.
Ursula in D.H. Lawrence’s novel Rainbow is extremely disturbed by her mother’s unwavering acceptance of her role as being wholly and completely defined by her influence in the household sphere. Ursula resolves never to be like her mother and feels the burning yet vague desire to somehow meaningful differentiate her life and fulfill the destiny that best befits her. Vera Brittain details how, by exiting her family and working as a nurse, she was able to discover new and important facts about the reality of the world that she would have never been able to discover while trapped in her own home. Lastly, in the movie Two English Girls, Anne discovers her own sexuality and expresses it even though it runs contrary to the morality of Victorian-era England.
These three characters all embody the way that women struggled for their sense of identity and the right to exist in a place outside of the traditional home. Their struggle is one to define themselves as actors in the real world and to discover the truth that their actions can have profound and important effects on the world around them.